By John Balch
No charges have been filed and officials are releasing few details about the shooting in Delight the night of June 9 that touched off a week of racial tension.
Dionne Coulter, 32, of Prescott, who is black, was arrested that night for allegedly shooting Dillon VanCamp, 27, of Antoine, who is white, in the lower leg during an incident in the parking lot of the Delight E-Z Mart. VanCamp was transported from the scene with a non-life threatening injury. Coulter was arrested without incident and placed in a patrol car on the scene, which quickly grew to a large crowd with numerous law agencies converging at the convenience store.
Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Chesshir said Monday the incident apparently began earlier that day in Antoine between Coulter and Dillon VanCamp and Brian VanCamp, 22, also of Antoine. Coulter was reportedly visiting a friend in Antoine and had gone to Delight to fuel up when the three men crossed paths again.
During the chaotic scene at the store following the shooting, Debbie VanCamp, 47, and Jeff VanCamp, 51, both of Antoine, allegedly entered the back seat of the patrol unit where Coulter was being held and assaulted him. There is a question of how the VanCamps gained access to Coulter, who was not handcuffed in the back the car.
During a peaceful protest Saturday in Delight organized by Black Leaders United, Pike County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Jim Garrett addressed the question:
“The crowd was getting rowdy, the deputy stepped away from the vehicle, and they way I understand it, they were trying to control the crowd, and these fanatical people got to [the car], somehow got the door open and that’s when things went badly. Immediately upon seeing someone in the vehicle, [PCSD] deputies went and took them out and ended the situation. The did the best they could do … no one put them in there to get [Coulter] hurt, and he was then taken across the road for his safety. Nothing was done intentionally, I promise you. That’s all I can say on the matter, I am not an investigator, I am a deputy, just here trying to do my job.”
Chesshir said he and Deputy Prosecutor Jana Bradford and Pike County Investigator Wayne Epperly will be busy this week continuing to review surveillance footage of the incident, take statements and interview witnesses and that more charges are likely.
“This is far from over,” Chesshir said, adding that charges could be brought against anyone seen on the footage causing trouble. “We’re not going to stand for this.”
Chesshir said charges are also pending against Dillon and Brian VanCamp for their involvement in the incident.
Coulter is scheduled to make a first appearance Monday, June 22 in Pike County Circuit Court on the felony charge of second-degree battery. He was released last Wednesday on $2,500 bond.
Debbie and Jeff VanCamp are also scheduled for a first appearance Monday on the felony charges of breaking or entering and terroristic threatening and misdemeanor charges of third-degree battery and obstructing governmental operations. The couple was also released from the county jail sometime last week.
Protest held Saturday
By P.J. Tracy
DELIGHT — Black Leaders United held a successful non-violent protest in Delight on Saturday afternoon in the wake of an mixed race altercation that left one man shot in the leg earlier in the week. Approximately 40 people attended the event, which included representation from both races.
The group’s founding member, Donterio Gill of Prescott, said that the group’s mission was “designed to uplift, motivate, educate and support people of color in our communities.” The group was founded in 2015-2016 and after several name iterations finally found the current version.
He said the before the rally that the protest was to “take a stand against racism — it is an issue plaguing our country, and we have to be the change we wish to see, have to take initiative as leaders to work together in unity to change America for the better. The goal of today is to take that first step in making a change and a difference.”
Despite stating to have received death threats from unidentified local citizens in the days leading up to the protest, Gill, a United States Army veteran who served eight years and a father of two children, said the event was designed to be a “peaceful protest to voice our frustrations to basically unite the community to take a stand against racism, that’s the overall premise and overall goal.”
“I’ve gotten death threats and been called everything under the sun except a child of God, but we have to have courage to take a stand and be a leader,” said Gill.
Gill said his group was neither “a hate group nor a pacifist group” and that the people involved had to “stand firm in what we believe — we are not out of blood and we are not out to hurt or harm anyone, but at the same time to we do have to protect and defend our people.”
One of the motivating factors for the protest came after last Tuesday’s incident that saw a black Prescott resident, Dionne Coulter, reportedly shoot a white Antoine resident, Dillion VanCamp, in the leg after a series of verbal altercations in different locations. As the scene unfolded, VanCamp’s aunt and uncle, Debbie and Jeff VanCamp, were also arrested after allegedly entering the back seat of the patrol unit, where Coulter was being held after his arrest, presumably to verbally and physically accost him.
“We are aware of the situation that has transpired here in Delight. [Coulter] is a personal friend of mine and we are aware of some practices that may have been unjustified … we were concerned about his personal safety while he was in police care and we don’t want a repeat of that situation — so that is why we must take a stand.”
The protest, which began with an organized walk from the Delight park to EZ Mart and back, was escorted by law enforcement led by Pike County Sheriff Travis Hill.
Hill said he assembled a multi-organizational law enforcement group, including “agencies from all-around” that also has state police and FBI agents in its detail.
“We are here to make this peaceful,” said Hill, noting that the group had a constitutional right to gather and demonstrate. “We want to protect people’s rights — they have a right to come do their peaceful protest, and we are here simply to protect everybody. I have gathered every resource that I can gather to come down here and ensure the safety of the people here to protest and the citizens of Delight. Public safety is the number one issue.”
Hill said in the days leading up to the protest there was a lot of “jibber jabber” on the internet and “people wanting to stir some things up.” He said the bickering on the internet is what has caused much of the “anger on some of this.”
“It’s just a few — 99% of the people in this county are great people, but the ones we have a problem with, it’s that 1% we have to watch out for, because that’s all it takes is that one person to make things go bad. That’s why were are here to try and avoid that situation … but I want Delight to know that they are on our map and a priority — the Sheriff’s Department is paying close attention and is here to protect them.”
Following the march, Gill thanked those who attended as well as the law enforcement that helped make the event safe and successful.
“Law enforcement was really good to us and provided excellent security in ensuring our safety,” he said. “There are some crazy people around here and I was worried about everyone’s safety and welfare, but [law enforcement] chipped in and done their part with great class and professionalism.”
He said everyone who attended the event was a leader who would help toward change.
Pike County Deputy Jim Garrett addressed the gathering, stating that Pike County was not filled with racist people. “There is a few people that are racist all over the country, and it’s unfortunate that in today’s times there are people like that … we want no part of that — skin color is not an issue for [the PCSO] and we love all people here, and will help anybody and everybody whenever we can. I’m glad you came down, we appreciate you and support you … don’t let a few people in this world hurt your heart, we all bleed the same color blood. Remember we have jobs to do, and all police officers are not bad, all white people are not bad and all black people are not bad — there are a few bad apples in every bunch.”
Garrett added that, while he couldn’t officially speak on the record due to his position, “deputies did not allow someone to go into the vehicle” after the rumor mill from Wednesday’s event stated that the VanCamps were willingly granted access to Coulter at the scene by the PCSO.
“The crowd was getting rowdy, the deputy stepped away from the vehicle, and they way I understand it, they were trying to control the crowd, and these fanatical people got to [the car], somehow got the door open and that’s when things went badly. Immediately upon seeing someone in the vehicle, [PCSO] deputies went and took them out and ended the situation. The did the best they could do … no one put them in there to get [Coulter] hurt, and he was then taken across the road for his safety. Nothing was done intentionally, I promise you. That’s all I can say on the matter, I am not an investigator, I am a deputy, just here trying to do my job.”
Garrett confirmed upon being questioned that the events were captured by surveillance camera at the EZ Mart in Delight. “The video shows exactly what I told you, and you can talk to Sheriff Hill … it’s public information. Our department is not trying to hide anything and if there is someone who needs to be punished [for their actions], then they need to be punished.”
Gill said his group was working with local law enforcement to review the video. “Once we get a chance to look at it we will put out the right information.”
In response to a question from the gathering, Garrett confirmed that the VanCamps would face charges for entering the vehicle.
“Absolutely — they have felony charges, from what I understand. They will go before a judge.”
Garrett again stated that the investigation was ongoing and all information had not yet been processed, and that the exact charges would be printed in the newspaper when finalized.
Local resident Ebony Henegan spoke, saying she was “born and raised in Delight … I left but just can’t leave, it seems like. To know that something like this could happen in this community is very shocking, I just never expected something like this to happen. People say you don’t think it will happen until it happens in your hometown.”
She said that while she was not overly familiar with Coulter, she was told by family they are cousins.
“It [all] could have been way worse, and I am just happy it wasn’t,” she said of the situation last Wednesday. “I just know that we as a community need to come together to stop all this, even if it takes years and years. I’m not going to be here forever, but while I am here, my peers and the people around me will try to do everything we can to make sure that nothing like this happens again to anybody — white or black, it doesn’t matter. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong … it could have been my brothers.”
To conclude, Gill thanked al who attended and invited those in attendance to join in on future events by Black Leaders United.
“Your support would be appreciated … we have to put aside our differences and unite for the greater good. We will not realize our goals [without you]. I don’t care if you are Christian, I don’t care if you are Muslim, black, white, whatever your gender or political affiliation — I am only concerned about helping our people and accomplishing our goals.”